Cross the Kremlin with “KGB capitalism”

There is no better time than now for a book about the Russian president to top the British bestseller list, as Vladimir Putin has long been a hot topic for many writers and investigative journalists. Although the book “Putin’s People” was released in 2020 and its journalist Catherine Bilton was the subject of a series of lawsuits by members of the Russian “oligarchs”, its star only rose this week as it is the “best-selling non-fiction book.” In the United Kingdom, according to William Collins Books, the publisher of the book, and last week it was seventh on the Sunday Times list of the most popular books.

But as noted, this success did not come easily.In the years it took journalist Catherine Bilton to do the necessary research and write her massive and extensive book on money and power in the Kremlin, a number of interrogators tactics trying to undermine her work. According to the New York Times, one of them, a close ally of Putin, who was apparently irritated by her questions about the Russian president’s activities when he was a Russian intelligence agent in Dresden during the 1980s, categorically insisted that no had rumors of links. Between the KGB and the terrorist organizations, he warned them not to “try to do it.”

It all happened

While another source who defended Putin’s term as deputy mayor of St. Petersburg tried to take a softer approach when asked about a local politician named Marina Sally who found evidence of corruption in a plan below Putin’s supervision in the early 1990s called “Oil for Food”, he did not bother to deny her findings, he simply refused to admit that her findings were fundamentally important, and arrogantly said: “It all happened “but it was completely normal trading. How do you explain it to a woman in desperation like her?”

Belton says the Kremlin has pursued this dual strategy in pursuing its interests inside and outside Russia, spreading threats, disinformation and violence to prevent devastating secrets from being leaked, or using silent sarcasm that is all but worthless anyway. underestimated.

But the brave Pelton did not allow any approach to intimidate her or deter her from talking to personalities with diverse interests from all sides, seeking documents, and locating the movement of money. The result was a comprehensive picture of Putin’s circle, and the rise of what the author calls “KGB capitalism”. It is a relentless form of wealth accumulation designed to serve the interests of the Russian state, whose “efforts are relentless,” Bilton said.

enigmatic personality

Bilton, the author of this award-winning book and now an investigative reporter for Reuters news agency, was a former correspondent for the Financial Times in Moscow, and has been sued in a series of lawsuits by members of the Russian “oligarch”, including Roman Abramovich, owner of the English football club Chelsea, has been approved by the British government for their ties with the Kremlin after Russia’s recent war with Ukraine.

Despite Putin’s centrality in the narrative, he often appears as an enigmatic figure, as he is not particularly creative or charismatic, but he has an astute ability to show people that their expectations are reflected in him, since he was a former KGB agent during his days. But the people who facilitated Putin’s rise did not do so for particularly idealistic reasons.

The book is about how Vladimir Putin and this small group of KGB men around him came to power and plundered their country. The sick Boris Yeltsin and the “oligarch” who flourished in chaos after the collapse of the Soviet Union, were looking for someone to preserve their wealth and protect them from corruption charges, Putin introduced himself described as his henchmen who in turn destroyed Russia’s economy. and legal system, which extends the Kremlin’s reach to the United States and Europe.

choose a naughty

The story began with the collapse of the Soviet Union when client networks managed to withdraw billions of dollars from state institutions and transfer their loot to the West, after which Putin and his allies completed the agenda and asserted Russian power while maintaining the economy. self-controlled. suppressed independent voices and started covert influence operations abroad.

The book “Putin’s Men” also tells the story of a number of personalities who eventually clashed with the president’s regime as media magnates such as Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky were stripped of their empires and fled the country, but Bilton says the real turnaround point was the trial that took place in 2004 and led to Once Russia’s richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who owned a significant stake in the oil-producing company Yukos, being banned for 10 years after a concentration camp in Siberia. Friendly “oligarchs” and intelligence agents, who turned the Russian legal system into a weapon and a fig leaf.

Putin allowed, and even encouraged, his inner circle to amass enormous personal fortunes, but he also expected them to pour money from their businesses into a collective fund whose abundant funds were instrumental in projecting Russia more strongly on the world stage. . used to undermine other countries relatively cheaply by financing internet trolls, election interference and extremist movements.

It was an old KGB approach adapted to the new era, while Putin pursued a nationalist agenda that embraced the country’s pre-revolutionary imperial past, and even Putin’s men found a way to enter the Supreme Court. To turn London into a service tool. interests, and the freezing of the assets of the rival “oligarchy”, while British lawyers were excessively paid by both sides.

Pelton argues that “the West, as much as it was the target of the Kremlin’s effective action, was also complacent and even complicit, and lack of action took the form of an outrageous belief in the power of globalization and liberal democracy. “A firm belief that once Russia was open to international capital and ideas, it would never look back.”

But there were many other mercenary motives at stake, and Western commercial interests realized how much profit could be made from the Russian oil giants and the large sums of money flowing in, and even when Putin was the beneficiary of such arrangements, he despised them. they claim his ability to use companies Western interest in Russia is his well-established view that “anyone in the West can be bought”.

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What is Trump’s role?

“Putin’s men” concludes with a chapter on Donald Trump, who calls Pelton the “network of Russian intelligence agents, business leaders and partners in organized crime” that has surrounded him since the early 1990s, and the fact that Trump is often caught is. in debt provided opportunity for those people who They desperately needed cash, and Belton documents how the network used high-level real estate transactions to launder money while evading stricter post-9/11 banking regulations.

Whether Trump is a smart partner who is aware that he is being abused in certain ways, and although the president may not be able to discern many of those actions and even ignore intelligence reports about Russian premium payments to Taliban fighters, is accepted that ‘ n min. It has people in the White House and his party doing it.

Anyway, when you read this book, you can not help but wonder if satire has penetrated so deeply into the Anglo-American political classes that the information documenting the work, including that certain people incriminate, makes no practical difference.

Someone familiar with Russia’s billionaires told author Bilton that once erosion occurs, it is very difficult to reverse it, “they always give three or four different narratives, and then the story gets lost in the noise.”

Despite the book’s exposure to an unprecedented flood of lawsuits last year, the publisher confirmed that it was eager to keep “Putin’s men” on bookstore shelves, so that its sales rose again with the invasion of Ukraine, which increased public interest in the Russian president.

It is noteworthy that in December 2021 the publisher finally reached a consensual resolution of the dispute between him and Roman Abramovich, and agreed to amend some parts of it in future editions of the book, especially those dealing with the role of the Kremlin in its acquisition of Chelsea FC in 2003, and it was The Foreign Office of the British House of Commons heard Catherine Bilton on Tuesday about the legal action taken by members of the “oligarch” against her.

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